Orlando, Part IV: Disney Springs

I have to say that when I woke up that Tuesday morning I thanked my wife big time for scheduling “break” days within our Park program, because my legs ached, I was exhausted mentally, and so was everyone else after the chaos of the Magic Kingdom deep into Monday night. It was the equivalent of working hard on your feet all day, knowing you have a relaxing weekend to look forward too — except that the “work” was one of the most amazing days of your life.

If there are any big takeaways I can give from the Magic Kingdom, these are they…

  1. There just aren’t enough characters there, but it gives more time for rides, shows, and just soaking in the atmosphere of the place.
  2. The place truly is larger than life. Standing in front of Cinderella’s Castle it feels like you’re really in front of Cinderella’s Castle.
  3. If you stay late enough, you can go on pretty much any ride without waiting in line. We got to do the Haunted Mansion when time was running out without waiting at all, even though the attendant at first said the ride was closed.
  4. Everyone really is a big kid once inside the gates. I felt such elation just getting to be there.

But that was over, and as much fun as it was, we wouldn’t be headed back there on this trip, so I hoped the kids had enjoyed the park as much, or hopefully even more so than we did. All the pictures came up within minutes on our Disney app, which was fascinating too, because we were chronicling the trip step by step along the way, and it was visual to everyone. We spent some time on Tuesday morning scrolling through them and recounting memories we had of the day.

Then it was time to head out again, however, because even though we weren’t park-bound that day we were going out for lunch and experiencing a different kind of magic — Disney Springs. If you’re not familiar, Disney Springs is the relatively recent addition of a village created by Disney, on the property, but anyone can just go there for free. It’s full of stores, a carousel (which Heidi and Madeline rode), restaurants, outlets, and a wide variety of other exciting things to experience while not in the parks.

First it was off to Planet Hollywood for lunch, which was absolutely amazing. As we are all vegetarians it was nice to see they had this authentic veggie burger made right there on the premises. It was packed full of so many vegetables it wowed me so much I needed to take a picture. The burgers came with “triple fries,” which was three different types of fries together in one container. I have no idea how I was able to eat that huge burger and all of the fries but somehow I managed it.

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Somehow we all handled it pretty well (except for Heidi, who had to bring the rest of hers back to our resort in a container). There was some kind of sauce on that burger that was absolutely delicious. I want to say it was some kind of dill that I’m sure can’t be recreated elsewhere. It was also great at Planet Hollywood because they had so much movie memorabilia like the replica of the Enterprise from Star Trek, Dorothy’s dress from the Wizard of Oz, and so much else.

Then it was off to just explore. We wandered down the streets of Disney Springs, marveling at all the high priced shops along with the other food possibilities. We were also there to check out the photo studio for people who had the Memory Maker package. They allowed for studio photos to be taken with backgrounds from the Disney parks, and a chance for Disney goers to spruce themselves up outside of the heat in order to do so. We were excited about it, but Tuesday’s drop-by was just to check things out.

Ahead of us was a HUGE Disney shop with so many items from the history of the company, from notable characters on merchandise, to park attractions on merchandise, to small trinkets that also cost a ton of money. It was a bit overwhelming, I have to say, with so much in one place, even more overwhelming than the shops at the Magic Kingdom, which I found a bit funny. We bought a couple of items, but we wanted to save most of our money for the actual parks so we didn’t stay too long. It was a slightly longer wait there, though, because the skies decided to open up while we were inside and we had no umbrellas. When there was a small break in the intensity of the rain we dashed across to where we really wanted to be.

It was really dessert time for us, as we stopped at the Girardelli shop for ice cream. My mother somehow found us a table inside, after much haggling, and we enjoyed, each of us, a different kind of ice cream treat. It was absolutely delicious.

Alexa decided near the end of our time at the Magic Kingdom the day before that she must have a caricature made to commemorate her time at Disney, and somehow she was able to locate a store where caricaturists did exactly that for patrons. She sat patiently while a gentleman created her likeness just as she wanted it. It was such a great experience that Madeline (who is notorious for saying “no” to just such an experience) decided she had to have her caricature done as well. They both came out amazing, but we had to stay out longer than we wanted to for them.

They were worth the time. And we were treated to a conversation between a lady caricaturist and Alexa, who is our artist-in-training. It was fun to hear from someone who was working with the same forms Alexa loves, like digital art programs for the computer. We left that shop with two caricatures, but also with two happy girls who had gotten exactly what they wanted. I’m figuring at some point we will frame both of them and put them up in their bedrooms.

All in all, it was a good day, though a bit tiring towards the end, especially since we had EPCOT in the morning. But it was exciting enough that we decided we would come back before our trip was over, not just to get the studio photos done, but just to experience the atmosphere once more. It was funny, but on our way to the caricature shop Madeline was grumpy and didn’t want to have any photos taken. On our way back, though, she asked her mother to take her picture with all the Lego sculptures. Sometimes all it takes is one good experience to change an entire day.

We arrived back to our resort, all in good spirits, all ready to meet as many characters as we could fit in — the next day — at EPCOT.

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